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Sleuthing the Sleuth: Discussing The Sherlock Holmes Handbook

I recently watched a fascinating discussion about Sherlock Holmes on PBS called How Sherlock Changed the World.  One of the interesting revelations the special maintains is that as the original Sherlock stories were being written they were in fact SCIENCE FICTION in that Doyle posited doing things with science to investigate and solve crimes that were not yet actually being done.  The science being written about in the Sherlock mysteries is akin to the nanotechnology that Michael Crichton and Michael Grant (the BZRK series) are writing about in the last ten years; in other words, it was just a tip of the ice berg.  In fact, Doyle’s writing helped take the concept of forensic science into the future.  Before the Doyle stories, eyewitness testimony or confessions were the primary method of solving crimes.

That was a fascinating revelation to me, the master of mystery may in fact have been dabbling in the art of science fiction with his use of science in not yet developed ways.  After watching years of forensic science procedurals and even seeing Sherlock’s thought processes represented visually in the BBC reboot of the show, it’s interesting to remember and explore just how revolutionary Sherlock’s investigation methods were for the time period in which the stories were written.

So I thought we would end Sherlock Week with one of our favorite topics: books.  What is a library without a books, right?  In 2009, Ransom Riggs wrote an interesting handbook on the great consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes.  And yes, I do mean THAT Ransom Riggs . . . before there was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (which is awesome and you should read because the sequel, Hollow City, comes out this month), there was a nonfiction look at Sherlock.  This is not a look at the BBC television show or the CBS reboot, but a look at the character, the stories, and his methods.  Some of the topics in The Sherlock Holmes Handbook include:

How to Use Deductive Reasoning

How to Analyze Fingerprints-Without Computers

How to Master a Dozen Disguises

How to Survive a Plunge over a Waterfall

There are illustrations, a look at Scotland Yard during the time period that the stories were written and set, and a ton of interesting trivia.

Riggs is apparently quite the Holmes aficionado and it was interesting to see the results of that interest and research poured out into this volume of awesome.  For teens looking for more background information in the classic Sherlock Holmes, this is a great read.

That time I met Ransom Riggs and he was totally charming, by Robin

I don’t always do everything John Green recommends in one of his Vlogbrothers videos…but I do always consider it. One day, almost in passing, he mentioned that his college friend Ransom Riggs was having a book published. And that he thought it was quite good. Good enough, in fact, that he had blurbed it. That was enough for me. I set off to my local book store to reserve a copy. To my great surprise, I found that Ransom Riggs would soon be coming for a book store event and signing. Have I mentioned how much I love my local book store?

Soon enough the day arrived and I took my copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to meet its author and be signed. I knew this was early in his signing schedule and perhaps one of the first he had ever done, so I wanted to be there to show my support. To my delight (although he seemed quite nervous) Mr. Riggs turned out to be articulate and charming. He seemed a bit at sea for what was supposed to happen at these events, but he soon settled in to a rhythm of answering questions. He paid special attention to the teens and tweens in the audience – always a good sign.

When I got to the front of the signing line, I let him know that I had been specially sent by John Green and that he should probably be expecting more of us on his tour. We chatted for a minute, and I mentioned that I am a Middle School librarian. He immediately hopped up from his seat and extended his hand for me to shake, saying how much he loves librarians. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do it.

As part of Quirk Books Week, Quirk Books has generously donated a prize package for one lucky winner that will include 2 of the above cookbooks, a copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, the first book of the Lovecraft Middle School series, and a copy of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. I’ve tried to give you as many ways as possible to enter so pick the one (or ones) that work best for you and do the Rafflecopter thingy below.  The giveaway closes on Saturday, December 14th and is open to U.S. Residents.  The books will be sent to you from Quirk Books and they are worth it.

Book Trailer: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

One of my most anticipated titles for 2014 is Hollow City by Ransom Riggs.  This is the follow-up book to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  If you have not yet read it, I highly recommend it.  Take a look at it’s spectacularly cool trailer.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Fc1FLa9rvA?rel=0]

As part of Quirk Books Week, Quirk Books has generously donated a prize package for one lucky winner that will include 2 of the above cookbooks, a copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, the first book of the Lovecraft Middle School series, and a copy of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. I’ve tried to give you as many ways as possible to enter so pick the one (or ones) that work best for you and do the Rafflecopter thingy below.  The giveaway closes on Saturday, December 14th and is open to U.S. Residents.  The books will be sent to you from Quirk Books and they are worth it.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Pecular Children by Ransom Riggs

This post originally ran way back in 2011, when I first started TLT.  I am rerunning it today as part of Quirk Books Week.  And because I still love this book and you should read it if you haven’t.  Even if you have, read it again because the sequel, Hollow City, comes out in January of 2014.

Every once in a while, an amazing new book comes along that moves you.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is one of those book for me.  This is an amazing story: creative, moving and just inspiring.  There are also a lot of great programming opportunities that tie into it.

Synopsis: As a child, Jacob was inspired by his grandfather’s stories about a home where a variety of peculiar children lived.  His grandfather shared haunting photos of these children: a girl who seemed to float on air, a girl with a mouth on the back of her head . . .  As Jacob grows, he begins to doubt the wondrous stories his grandfather has always shared.  He is working at his uncles drug store empire, trying every day to get fired and wondering what his future holds when his grandfather dies.  Jacob has seen a strange creature which everyone thinks is part of his coping mechanism.  Soon Jacob is sent on a journey where he tries to find this home, to learn the truth about his grandfather.

Miss Peregrine’s Home is a rich fantasy full of adventure and discovery.  It is also a story that celebrates how truly different and unique each person is.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWrNyVhSJUU]

Throughout the story Riggs shows a variety of beautiful, haunting pictures that really enhance the reading experience.  Riggs found the photos at garage sales and in attics, and they really help bring the journey together.  Riggs has a blog that I recommend you check out.  This is his first book, and it will definitely not be his last.  I sincerely hope that he continues to explore the world that is mapped out in Miss Peregrine.

If you have not read it stop reading this blog post now, go read it and then come back.  It is that good.

Are you back?  Okay, now I want to share with you some ideas I have for programming that tie-in to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  Have a “Peculiar Party” where you show the book trailer, discuss the book, and engage in some creative activities inspired by the book.

Make a Picture, It’ll Last Longer

One of the truly amazing parts of Miss Peregrine are the photos throughout the book, and we definitely have a wide variety of tools at our disposal to help create our own images.  As you know, TLT believes in providing opportunities for teens to express themselves creatively and learn technology skills that will help them succeed in life.  So get out your digital camera (or iPhone, there are a lot of apps that would be great for this) and get teens shooting.  Then, upload the images and use photo editing software (you can do some in things like PowerPoint and Publisher, which a lot of libraries use, but GIMP and a couple other programs are available for free download if your library hasn’t purchased any photo editing software).  Let the teens explore ways they can manipulate the images and make themselves, or their friends, into “Peculiar” children.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be done digitally – some teens may want to draw or make collages.  You can also do thinks like a scrapbooking project or make picture frames to work with the creative aspect of Riggs book.

You can also have teens put together a photo essay.  A photo essay tells a story using a series of pictures.  Teens can create the photos themselves, or collect photos similar to making a collage.  Here is a list of sites that talk about good photo essay activities.

You may also have a local photographer who would be willing to come in and do a workshop or a series of workshops to talk about basic photography and layout and design, etc.  The photographer for your local paper, a college instructor or the teacher that does your local high school’s newspaper may be willing to give some basic instruction.

Have teens think about what type of peculiar child they would like to be:
What type of talent would they like to have?
What would it look like in an old fashioned photograph?

Make sure you get copies of each created piece so you can decorate your teen area and share them online.

An example flier
This picture was taking using Hipstagram on iPhone

Monster Mash

There are dark monsters that inhabit the peculiar world that Riggs has created.  These creatures, want to use the talents of the peculiar children for their own selfish purposes.  Have the teens discuss this aspect of the book.  Then, they can create their own monsters.  I am a big fan of the Gocks, so that is certainly one thing you can bring into your program.  Of course you can just make your monsters out of any type of found materials.

In fact, this would be a great time to employ the old practice of exquisite corpse: get teens a long sheet of paper (like table covering paper) and fold it into 3 sections.  The first teen will draw the head and then fold it over.  The second teen, without seeing the head, draws the body and folds it over.  And the final teen draws the leg portion without having seen the body or the torso.  When you unfold the entire art piece you get one cohesive monster that features the imagination of 3 teens put together in a Frankenstein mish mash.  You can also do this as a writing exercise, have 1 teen write a sentence then they pass it on.  This is a creative way to get interesting poems or short stories together with a wide variety of input.

The Wonder of Found Art

Remember part of the inspiration of Riggs work was a collection of found art.  So any activity that allows for creativity is a great tie-in.  And as you talk about how the story came to be, it is great to incorporate the idea of found art into your programming.  It is amazing what teens can come up with if you give them a mish mash of items to work with.  Collect clean trash from staff and then give each teen a container with say 10 items, see what they can make out of it.  You could also just get a bunch of your leftover craft supplies together and do the same.  They can make 3-d art or paper art, either would work.  Here is an example of some amazing found art.

You could also have the teens bring in their favorite stuff to share.  Or have a swap meet and let them trade.  It is always amazing to see what teens have that mean something to them, and it is equally fun to see what they have that they want to get rid of.  One person’s trash truly is another person’s treasure.

The Collector’s Peculiar Museum

On his blog, Ransom Riggs shares about his peculiar hobby of collecting pictures of people he doesn’t know.  Give your teens an opportunity to share what they collect:  You can have them take photos and create a digital museum or have them bring in examples as part of a kind of swap meet/show and tell.  Maybe you have a display case and you can let teens set up displays.

The Collector’s Museum – Have teens take a picture of themselves with their collection.  Then print off the pictures and hang them in your teen area.  Maybe put a call number reference on the poster and use it as a means of teaching teens to navigate the stacks. 

Have a teen of the week feature on your FB page and share the picture with a brief bio of the teen (first name only).  Share any books your library may have on the topic.

What a Peculiar Short Story

Get a bunch of old photographs together.  When teens come into your program have them randomly choose one out of a bag.  Then, ask them to write a brief short story about the picture.  What is happening?  How does the character feel?  What journey are they on?

Or daily post a random pic on your FB page and asks teens to write a caption for it.

My Peculiar Life

I’ve mentioned it before, but I am a huge fan of data visualization and of Nicholas Felton’s yearly annual reports, basically a data visualization account of his year – a type of “biography“.  I think teens would enjoy creating a visual biography like this.  It can be their biography, or the summary of a year, or a way to tell their family story.  I think this would also be a great activity for seniors getting ready to graduate.

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Riggs fabulous book will soon be made into a movie.  Have your teens create movie posters.  Have them create their dream cast: who would they want to play each character.  The great thing is you can send out a poll and have these types of discussions online to help generate traffic to your webpage.

Sharing Family Stories

At the heart of the story is the relationship between Jacob and his grandfather and the stories that his grandfather shared.  You can give teens opportunities to share their family stories.  They can write them, story board them, make a pictorial version.  Any of the creative ideas that have been shared on this blog can be used:  make posters, pictures, quotes.  Just give your teens an opportunity to create and share.

And the Winner Is . . .

Not everything has to be a contest, but any of the above activities can certainly be turned into a contest.  Your prize can be a Peculiar Gift Basket: a copy of the book, a digital camera, some snacks to enjoy while reading it.

What a Peculiar Read, Let’s Discuss It?

  • Basic discussion questions:
  • Why did Jacob start to doubt his grandfather’s stories?  Do you think you would have?
  • When Jacob runs out after the creature in his grandfather’s house, what did you think was happening?  How do you think you would have felt in that situation?
  • Would you have wanted to take the journey that Jacob wanted to take to learn about his grandfather?  What do you think this says about Jacob?
  • What was your reaction when Jacob first found Miss Peregrine’s home?
  • If you were a peculiar child, what type of peculiar talent would you want to have?
  • Who was your favorite peculiar child in the book and why?
  • What did you think about Jacob’s developing relationship with the various peculiar children?
  • What did you think of Miss Peregrine herself?
  • Would you have made the decision to stay in the time loop?
  • What was your reaction to finding out about Jacob’s counselor’s role in it all?
  • What did you think of Jacob at the end of the book?  What choices that he made would you have maybe have done differently?
  • Overall, what did you think of the book?
  • If you could travel back in time, where would you travel to and why?

If You Like Miss Perergrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, You May Also Like

Books about being different, time travel and journeys, and missing someone close to you
Freaks, Alive on the Inside by Annette Curtis Klaus
Mr. Was by Pete Hautman
Looking for Alaska by John Green
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum Ucci
The Night My Sister Went Missing by Carol Plum Ucci

And an odd true story to share: 
Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story about Brain Science by John Fleischman

Other photo related activities to keep in mind: scrapbooking, making a wide variety of picture frames, and treasure searches (maps) such as the map of time loops.  There are a lot of possibilities, so be bold like Jacob and creative like Riggs . . .

More Photo Related Crafting Ideas
Turn Your Instagram Photos into Photobooth Strip Bookmarks   
10 Things to Do with a Blank Canvas part 1 and part 2
Instagram crafts
When Books Inspire Art  

Since writing this post, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has been made into a graphic novel, so be sure and check that out as well.

As part of Quirk Books Week, Quirk Books has generously donated a prize package for one lucky winner that will include 2 of the above cookbooks, a copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, the first book of the Lovecraft Middle School series, and a copy of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. I’ve tried to give you as many ways as possible to enter so pick the one (or ones) that work best for you and do the Rafflecopter thingy below.  The giveaway closes on Saturday, December 14th and is open to U.S. Residents.  The books will be sent to you from Quirk Books and they are worth it.

Christie’s To Drool For: January 2014 Titles

Oh, January. New year, snow, hot chocolate, and NEW BOOKS!!!!!!

Haley and her father Andy have been on the road for the past five years, always moving, avoiding the demons from her dad’s PTSD. They’ve finally returned to Hayley’s hometown, but will that make things better or worse, and will Hayley finally be able to have a normal life.

The sequel to Better Nate than Never, Nate is finally headed to BROADWAY!  Off to start rehearsals for E.T.: The Musical, nothing turns out to be exactly like he expects. Can his lucky rabbit’s foot save the day, or will he need more than that to see his name in lights?

The second novel of Miss Peregrine’s series, Hollow City starts right in 1940. Jacob and his friends have to journey to London, the Peculiar Capital of the World, discovering new creatures, aliens, and peculiarities along the way.

Book two of the Testing series, Cia is now a freshman in Tosu City- and even though the government has tried to erase the horrors she endured during the Testing, she remembers. Balancing the line between what to reveal to whom, and how far to go can have deadly consequences, and the future of everyone is at stake.
The conclusion to Starters. Someone is after Callie and Michael- Starters, teens who help adults relive their youth in exchange for food, money, and safety. While the body bank is destroyed, the Enders (adults) can still control her while the chip is in her head- including hurting people she loves.
In the sequel to Pantonmime, Micah and Dystran have left the circus behind, and fallen in with the great magician Jasper Maske. However, people are still hunting for Micah based on his past, and Micah is discovering that magic is not all card tricks and illusions.